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Book Review: The Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor

3.5 ⭐️’s From Me

Goodreads Summary: London, September 1666. The Great Fire rages through the city, consuming everything in its path. Even the impregnable cathedral of St. Paul’s is engulfed in flames and reduced to ruins. Among the crowds watching its destruction is James Marwood, son of a disgraced printer, and reluctant government informer.

In the aftermath of the fire, a semi-mummified body is discovered in the ashes of St. Paul’s, in a tomb that should have been empty. The man’s body has been mutilated and his thumbs have been tied behind his back.

Under orders from the government, Marwood is tasked with hunting down the killer across the devastated city. But at a time of dangerous internal dissent and the threat of foreign invasion, Marwood finds his investigation leads him into treacherous waters – and across the path of a determined, beautiful and vengeful young woman.

AshesMy Review:

I grabbed this book in London after being intrigued by some fellow book bloggers and bookstagrammers.

The Great Fire of London is a great idea – especially with St. Paul’s playing such a central role. I could clearly imagine the devastation of the fire as Taylor vividly creates the atmosphere of 1666 – the search for an explanation of the fire and the wide-spread disaster of London. I even felt myself imagining the heat for the fire and the oppressive smoke. “Ashes and Blood. Blood and Ashes.”

Then, in the midst of all of this destruction, James Marsden, the son of a traitor must solve a murder. There are so many possibilities for motive – greed, deception, politics, secrets – the investigation gets twisty. Taylor even throws in the issue of gender oppression as Cat Lovett must face the conflict between her duties as a woman during this time and her dreams to be more. Both characters must face the question of who can you really trust when it seems as if everyone is trying to save themselves in this tumultuous time period.

The characterization was well developed and believable for the setting. Taylor switches narration between James and Cat throughout the book to deliberately reveal clues, but not quite solve the mystery before the end. As a result, the book has a steady pace and is engrossing, but I missed the sense of urgency I desire when reading a murder mystery.  It should be noted that you must like historical fiction to keep going with this novel or I fear you could easily get bored.

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